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Sigur Rós: Laugardalshollin (live bootleg)

April 30, 2013

sigur ros

Roll: 5-6-7
Album: Sigur Rós, Laugardalshollin, 8/28/99, Reykjavik Iceland (live bootleg)

In the past decade there’s been many words written about how illegal downloading has harmed the record industry. It certainly has. I’ve first hand seen it close stores. But one sub-segment of the industry that’s never mentioned, and has been completely decimated by downloading, is the live bootleg CD market. You just don’t see them anymore. Instead of burning and distributing CD-Rs, people just throw their live recordings up online somewhere.

Unlike artists, pressing plants, stores and labels, it’s hard to feel sorry for the bootleggers. They were never, ethically speaking, more than maybe one step above file-sharing sites. But at least they were selling recordings that weren’t otherwise available. And if the bootleg was issued on vinyl, at least someone made some money pressing it.

Sometimes just charging money for the terrible audio quality was their biggest crime. At some point in every punk’s early teens they ended up with at least one Sex Pistols bootleg that sounded like it was recorded on a telephone answering machine at the bottom of water tank. Unconscionable. Almost a hate crime against music.

But the audio quality of this Sigur Rós set from August 1999 is actually pretty great. It must have been recorded for a radio broadcast or something because it sounds more or less on par with their officially released live albums such as the 2CD/DVD Inni (2011). And it’s just as boring.

Now, at least. Upon release, Laugardalshollin had new songs from their yet-unreleased () album, the much anticipated follow-up to Ágætis Byrjun (1999). I certainly jumped on it at the time, crazy as anyone else for anything new by this Icelandic, epic prog-gaze/post-rock band, but it’s all old news by now. Super fans could probably note differences in arrangements and track lengths to the finished product but… meh. I just don’t care.

The problem with Sigur Rós live recordings is (unless they’re “unplugged” as on Heim) they sound pretty much exactly the same as their studio counterparts. And even if they are in fact radically different, they sound exactly alike. There’s not a lot of stage banter, no discernible jamming, no unexpected covers and very rarely anything that isn’t already on an album. Inni actually works better as greatest hits album than a live document.

And the same goes for Laugardalshollin though it only covers material from Ágætis Byrjun and (). The track titled “Duet” might in fact be an unreleased song. But it might also be a work-in-progress from () that ended up with a different title. And again… meh. I just don’t care.

That said, it’s well worth owning if you’re a hardcore Sigur Rós fan. And since it turns out I’m not as much as fan as I thought, you might find my copy of this in a used record store soon. Pick it up. Help them stay in business.

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